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Knives Out! “Black Mass Hysteria”

knives-out-black-mass-hysteriaBack in 2001 I was brought up to speed (thanks to ThePRP.com’s review) of a band called Dog Fashion Disco. 2001 marked the year they release ‘Anarchists of Good Taste,’ a relatively unknown hard rock/avant-garde metal band. This album at the time reminded me that good music comes in all shapes and sizes and sounds. Dog Fashion Disco was different, and it was something special. ‘Anarchists of Good Taste’ to this day remains in constant rotation among my music players. Since then, they had released numerous albums; none in my eyes quite are raw and impressive as ‘Anarchists of Good Taste,’ although all well done until their demise in 2006. Since then, Todd Smith, DFD’s singer has been in a few projects, most notably Polkadot Cadaver, although none as successful as DFD got and nothing as heavy as DFD. Around the same time as DFD was rising to minor status fame, a hard rock/metal act named Nothingface was taking them around city to city and playing some solid music that I still have a crush on. ‘Pacifier’ in 1997, ‘An Audio Guide to Everyday Atrocity’ in 1998 and ‘Violence’ in 2000 all marked solid hard rock albums at the time of Papa Roach and Slipknot. They, along with DFD fizzled out. So why this long annoying introduction? Because words aren’t cheap when it comes to content, but in all seriousness, I was like a little school girl when I found out Todd Smith and Tom Maxwell had released an album, very fittingly on Valentine’s Day for a new project called Knives Out.

So, what is Knives Out and did my hopes get ruined quickly or did I pee myself a bit after listening to this album. To say it’s been about 10 albums since I remember what good DFD or good Nothinface sounded like is not an understatement. Knives Out’s ‘Black Mass Hysteria’ reminds me of what it was like to open up ‘Anarchists of Good Taste,’ it’s that damn good.

To say ‘Black Mass Hysteria’ is something different might be misleading, but really it is what Nothingface and Dog Fashion Disco together would sound like. Taking the heaviness of Nothingface or ‘Anarchists of Good Taste’ era Dog Fashion Disco, and still adding the avant-garde elements of DFD and Todd’s crazy vocal/lyrical assault and you have Knives Out. It’s pretty much an orgasm for my 15 year old inner child’s ears; however I can still respect the music as an adult today.

Starting off with ‘Hide in the Sky’ they kick you in the face fast with quick hooks from Tom’s guitars. You are brought up to what Todd Smith is quickly as his haunting vocals and wide range of screams, chants, singing and more come in. This is a hard rock song, simply put with a few screams thrown in for good measure. ‘Hysteria’ brings you to the slower side of Knives Out, and you get to see some of Todd’s singing talents, slow and haunting. Although the guitar work is still groovy, it has a softer melody. ‘Surrounded By Demons’ is a faster song with the haunting work of Todd. Lyrically, Knives Out follows the same weird world as Dog Fashion Disco, but I didn’t expect nor did I want anything different.

The band does consist of other members who deserve to be mentioned and they are Jasan Stepp (guitar), David Cullen (bass) and Tommy Sickles. Some people might remember Tommy from his days with Nothinface. Jasan provides solid hooks and works great with Tom. Tommy’s drumming is spot on, quick and punishing when it needs to be. The bass work is also well done, but definitely hits the typical drowned out work that you find with most metal/hard rock bands; but back to the music.

‘Blood Everywhere’ brings out what Knives Out is in its fullest, and it’s a fitting single from the band. Todd’s range is all over the place, the music is fast, circus like and heavy. ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ is a heavy sounding hard rock anthem. Todd sings “Come sweetheart, let me count your stab wounds…Lie down I want to eat your heart out to even bring us closer” in a haunting soft verse. To say Knives Out isn’t weird would be a lie, but then again if you didn’t like Dog Fashion Disco I don’t know if you would like Knives Out much. Soft songs about serial killing, corpses, peeing on things, this is what DFD was all about and Knives Out keeps it up!

‘Pink on the Inside’ is a faster song with a punk undertone set to it. Screams from Todd keep the track heavy and the grooves are awesome from Stepp and Maxwell. ‘Swollen Mistress’ is another heavy hitting song of pure adrenaline. To quote the late Natalie, my head was in a whirlwind of banging, or something like that. This track is probably the only track that I can hear influences from Tom’s later projects like Hellyeah. ‘Robot Babylon’ follows this up with some quick guitar hooks and a short simple but appetizing solo until Todd comes in full force screaming. This is one of the few tracks where Todd sticks to screaming and doesn’t give it up. ‘The First Time I Discovered A Dead Body’ ends this metal assault, and although all good things must come to an end, this was one hell of an ending. Another track that really explored the overall range of Knives Out, you get some screaming, singing, chanting, crazy lyrical content and excellent hooks and heavy drums and bass.

To say I was excited but reluctant to listen to Knives Out was an understatement. To get what I got once I listened is not explainable. Whether this is my teenager inside of me trying to relive solid moments in time, Knives Out just being a great band or a little of both doesn’t matter, this is one hell of a fucking album. If I wanted to ‘Anarchists of Good Taste’ and ‘An Audio Guide to Everyday Atrocity’ could be retired from my music players and I could just add this entire album since it’s the best of both bands hands down. Knives Out are their own entity and I don’t want to take that away from them, however I want to make sure fans know that if you loved Dog Fashion Disco, Nothingface or any other side project in between you will love Knives Out. They are also releasing this on their own label, Razor to Wrist and I would recommend picking up a copy or downloading the album on iTunes, you will not be disappointed, I clearly wasn’t.

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